One of the many benefits of living in Southern California is that we can enjoy fresh produce from our backyard gardens any time of the year. There is a wide variety of foods that can be grown even in the coldest months, but winter is a particularly good time for growing lettuces and leafy greens for use in salads, juicing, and side dishes.
Some varieties, such as kale, taste better when grown in cooler weather, while others are simply too fragile to thrive in Ojai’s summer heat and must be grown in winter.
Here are 10 tips for growing your own winter greens to get you started with this healthy hobby.
1. Raised garden beds are a great option that allow you to better control your soil content. While kale likes nutrient-rich soil that is not high in nitrogen, many winter greens thrive with a bit of nitrogen added to the soil, so amend your soil according to the greens you are growing.
2. Many leafy greens like their soil moist, which is another reason it is best to grow them during the rainy season to reduce the need for supplemental irrigation.
3. Avoid wasting water by growing your greens in shallow containers with plenty of soil for their shallow root systems but no excess soil to soak up water.
4. Consider starting your seeds indoors if you are planting early when the weather is still pretty warm or planting late and the temperature is already regularly dipping below 50 degrees.
5. Succession planting is the key to enjoying an ongoing harvest throughout winter and spring. Plant a few seeds of each variety each week to significantly extend your harvest.
6. You can also extend your harvest by taking only what you intend to use right away and harvesting leaves at the outer edges of the plant.
7. Growing winter greens from seeds is pretty easy; however, if your thumb is not all that green, you may achieve better results by starting your garden from seedlings from one of our local nurseries.
8. Another way to help ensure success is to choose easier-to-grow greens, such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard, or rocket lettuce. Most greens are easy to grow, but these are even easier, so they might be better options for beginner gardeners.
9. If you do not have room for a vegetable garden, grow your greens in containers on your patio, a vertical garden, or in small pots on a windowsill.
10. Add a layer of mulch around the base of your plants to help retain moisture and protect the roots.
11. Consider a simple hydroponics system for growing leafy greens indoors. I grow leafy greens both in soil and hydroponically and would recommend either one for gardeners with any level of experience. Using a hydroponic system allows you to grow greens indoors all year – not just in winter – so that is a bonus. You can purchase an indoor hydroponics system that is complete with grow lights and a pump, but it is also possible to start with a much simpler and more affordable, do-it-yourself option, such as using the Kratky method, which you can easily learn with a quick Internet search.
AimeeJo Davis-Varela is a freelance writer specializing in real estate, sustainable home improvement, eco-friendly landscaping, green living and travel writing. She is also the owner of Mind Your Manors, which provides second home management services.
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